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Day 21 – December 21st: Dien Chau to Vinh: 50 km.
I turned out of the Muong Thanh hotel and headed east to the coast. It was my first look at the sea, but I avoided the beach and headed south along a rural road that ran parallel to the sand for about 20 km. Running next to it on the beachside was a levee bank that I eventually had to climb onto.
The levee was obviously there to protect the fields on the inland side from the rising sea during typhoons. Here the fields were growing vegetables rather than rice. Bok Choi seemed to be in season now, and there were plenty of people out working the fields.
Further along the levee bank, fish farming was popular. Large ponds lined with black plastic and aerated with rotating paddles lined both sides of the levee. The road on the levee was made of concrete and provided a nice, smooth ride for me.
At one point, I stopped and checked out one of their fishing boats which had been lifted from the water and left on the side of the road. It was made completely of bamboo. I couldn’t imagine going out on the sea on this flimsy craft, especially as most local guys don’t swim!
The levee bank ended abruptly at a peninsular, and I turned onto a very rough, muddy coast road. There was very little traffic, though, and I was right on the water for the first time. The road had been bituminized at some stage in the past, but all that was left were some half-hidden clumps that proved annoying when I hit them with my front wheel.
I passed several open-air Hai San (seafood)restaurants, although none were open. I figure the weather will need to improve markedly to lure the locals back out here. It was a cool, cloudy day, and the sea was quite rough. It was no tropical paradise today!
I proceeded around the coastline and up over a series of headlands that provided me with my first climbs since Cuc Phuong. I’ll need to get as much climbing practice in as I can before I tackle Hai Van Pass later in the trip.
As the road turned away from the coast, I found myself surrounded by vast rice paddies with small villages sitting like islands among them. In one village, the local kids were coming out of school. In Vietnam, almost all of the kids have an electric bike to ride to school, and they share, as each bike always has two kids on it. The school must have been nearby as wave after wave of electric scooters came washing past me. I stopped and got my phone out and filmed them as I rode. It’s not something I’ve seen in other countries, certainly not in Australia.
After crossing a small dam wall, I stopped at a bakery on the side of the road. It had a display of sweet and savory pastries that I was very happy to see. The locals all stopped talking and stared, waiting to see what would eventuate. What would I order? How will I order it? I was a bit of a novelty to keep them entertained for five minutes of their day.
I didn’t really have to use any Vietnamese as a young lady was ushered forward to help me choose. Her name was An, and she spoke very good English. It turns out she had been studying Biochemistry in Ho Chi Minh City and was expecting to go to the US next year to complete her course.
I chose a couple of things and said goodbye. I just needed a cold drink now and somewhere to sit and eat my lunch. I eventually found a service station and sat on an old concrete foundation while I finished my food.
I was basically on the outskirts of Vinh City, but I still had about 20 km to go to the hotel to meet Sharyn. RidewithGPS had plotted another convoluted route through a labyrinth of market gardens and rice paddies that had me stopping and checking my bearings every five minutes.
After what seemed like ages, I eventually emerged from a lengthy series of side streets onto a highway ring road. I decided to ditch the GPS and use Google Maps to take a more direct approach to the center of the city. Unfortunately, I soon struck roadworks and had to negotiate some very rough surface. It slowed me up but didn’t stop me as I just rode around the heavy machinery and workers laying the road. No one seemed to care about me.
I was a bit surprised by just how big Vinh is, as the suburbs just kept going for miles. Finally, I rode into the main square and found the hotel – The Muong Thanh Grand Phuong Dong. Sharyn was waiting for me at the front steps and helped me unload the bike. The staff insisted I put my bike in the motorbike park next door; I wasn’t happy and let them know it. So I chained my bike to a post undercover and told the security guard I’d give him some money if it were still there in the morning.
It was now time for Sharyn to change the dressing on her arm. The hospital had supplied her with everything she needed. She just couldn’t do it herself. We sterilized everything with hot water and swabbed the wound with Betadine. This was the first time that I had seen her 20 metal staples that were holding the sides of the wound together. It still looked swollen and very angry!
With the fresh bandage in place and the rubbish bin in the bathroom looking like it belonged in a Tarantino movie, we headed downstairs for dinner and a couple of beers. We found a local outdoor restaurant and a young waitress who spoke a little English. No craft beer, but the food was good.
Back at the hotel, I checked on my bike before going up to the room. The guard was half asleep already!
To read about what happened next, head to: Sixty In Style